1. ESRC Genomics Network (archive)
  2. Gengage
  3. The Human Genre Project

Egenis · Research

Genomics and the Politics of Human Identity

Christine Hauskeller

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Email: Christine Hauskeller


Announcements of what the Human Genome Sequencing Project would deliver claimed that it would tell us what is special about humans and what makes each of us unique. This self-understanding of genomic knowledge was followed in the ethical and social debates accompanying genetics since Asilomar and justified the exceptional treatment of genomic science in regulation and public discourse.


The investigation of the self-representations of genomics in public declarations of aims and function identified the major role of genomics as the assurance of the identity of the species and of its members including the marking of social status of individuals. The ethical discussions amongst experts and in public present a similar picture – traits often are taken as markers for a person and the genome seems to define who and what one is.

Mapping the actual social uses of genomic knowledge and technologies leads to findings supporting the above interpretation. Social practices involving genes or the genome as a word, a concept or an object focus on its potential to establish what ‘one’ is. The borders of what is considered to be human and the traits of individual representatives of humans are negotiated and established in the currency of Genomics.

In a catch phrase: In its social reality, genomics is all about human identity.

Specialist Workshops:

Christine Hauskeller led the ESRC Genomics Network workstream on Genomics and Identity Politics. A series of nationwide expert workshops brought together academics, policy-makers and professionals to explore specific issues.

  • Policing Genes: Medicine, Immigration and the Census - 13/14 March 2008
  • Constructing/Contesting Mobilizations: Biopolitics, Activism and Identity – 27 June 2008
  • Genetic Suspects: Emerging Forensic Uses of Genomic Technologies – 2/3 October 2008
  • The Genetics and Identity Politics of Parenthood and Family: We are family? – 19/20 February 2009
  • Genomics and Identity Politics – 24 September 2009
  • Opportunities and Limitations of Molecular Technologies for Inferring National Origins - 1 February 2011


Hauskeller, C., Editor of Special Issue of Sociology on Genetics: The Sociology of Identity, forthcoming 2013

Hauskeller, C., 'Genes, Genomes and Identity. Projections on Matter', New Genetics and Society, 23, 3, 2004, pp. 285-299.

Hauskeller, C., Human Genomics as Identity Politics (opens as pdf),* * This work was awarded the Young Scholar Award from the Centre for Ethics & Public Life at Cornell University, NY, in 2006. The prizewinning manuscript is part of the book in progress, Genomics and the Politics of Human Identity.

Hauskeller, C., 'The re-making of genetic identity and why it should not be trusted', in Photo-ID: Photographers and Scientists explore identity, Norwich: Norfolk Contemporary Art Society, 2009, pp. 37-49.